YWAF is a registered charity that was launched in 2003, but its origins go back over 20 years when Shepton Housing Association Ltd (SHAL) was formed by a group of Christian volunteers from the Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul in Shepton Mallet, who were responding to the growing issue of youth homelessness.
Grace Harris House in Waterloo Road, Shepton Mallet was purchased by English Churches Housing Group (ECHG) and run as a Supported Housing Project for young people and was managed by a voluntary committee consisting of the members of SHAL for over 10 years. In 2002 the management of the house was transferred to ECHG and SHAL was dissolved. YWAF was created using the funds from the transfer.
YWAF was set up not only to support any projects working with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or threatened with homelessness in the Mendip area of Somerset, but also to support any positive activities with and for young people.
Working with Mendip YMCA
Over the years, YWAF has worked alongside and mainly supported the work of Mendip YMCA and the young people who live at Street Foyer, Frome Foyer and Grace Harris House, Shepton Mallet. These supported housing schemes take in young people aged 16 to 25 years who would not otherwise have anywhere to live. Many are 'sofa-surfing' (staying with friends and sleeping on their sofas/floors) for long periods of time, having no place to call home; many are leaving local authority care at the age of 16+ and cannot live with their parents for various reasons; many have suffered family breakdown or bereavement and find it difficult to settle. Most are not in education, training or employment, but despite everything, some do manage to maintain college courses and go to work.
The Mendip YMCA Supported Housing Projects have paid staff running the houses, ensuring that the young people receive consistent, caring support that is practical and meets whatever needs they may have. They also have access to all sorts of outside help from other agencies that can support the young residents to help them with mental health issues, substance misuse, finding education, training and employment and so on. Very importantly, the staff ensure that these young people are kept safe, with consistent boundaries – two things that are incredibly important to give them stability. Everyone has hopes, dreams and ambitions, but if you are young, homeless, rootless and have no parental support, life can seem pretty impossible.
Mendip YMCA also deliver youth work in several youth clubs in Frome, Coleford, Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury and Street.
To read about the work of Mendip YMCA, please visit their site.